After eight years, I’ve decided to hang up my CEO hat and ask Matt to take over the job.
What an amazing ride it’s been! I met Matt, Automattic’s eventual founder, almost ten years ago, in the summer of 2004. We were introduced by Om Malik and immediately hit it off. I forget when the idea of creating a company behind the WordPress open source project first came up, but I think it was early on. When Matt started that company – Automattic – and asked me to be its CEO, it sounded like a great challenge and opportunity. My first day on the job was in January 2006. Automattic was four people strong and a few months old. We were small, but we had big dreams. We wanted to make WordPress huge – #1 in its market and used by millions of people. We wanted to build a thriving software business that could be around for decades while strengthening the WordPress open source project at the same time. We wanted to build a company led by engineering values and open source principles. And for good measure, we wanted to be a distributed organization, able to hire and work with great people from anywhere in the world. Eight years on, we’ve realized many of those early dreams. WordPress is the #1 publishing platform in the world and powers 21% of all web sites on the internet. Automattic’s services reach close to a billion people every month, an audience rivaling that of Google and Facebook. Our flagship product, WordPress.com, is currently the 8th largest site on the internet. At the same time, the WordPress open source project has grown from a handful to thousands of contributors, is available in close to 100 languages, and downloaded well over a hundred thousand times a day. Automattic has grown to a team of 231 people, a group that is as talented as it is diverse, working together in a 100% distributed fashion from 171 cities across the globe. And we are profitable, backed by great investors, in charge of our own destiny, and in strong shape to continue on our mission to democratize publishing for a long time to come. Needless to say, I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.
A few months ago, I started to feel a sense of completion about our early goals, coupled with a growing itch to work on some new product ideas. So I turned to Matt and suggested that now felt like a good time for us to “swap jobs” and have him become Automattic’s next CEO. Matt and I have been working side-by-side, building and running Automattic over the years, and he is without a doubt one of the most talented people in tech today, so I have full confidence that Automattic will continue to thrive after we make this change. And yes, Matt did just turn 30, which makes it a fun moment in time to say that he’s finally old enough to be a CEO! As for me, I will stay at Automattic (and at True), excited to switch my focus to working on new ideas and building new products.
PS: I’d like to take this moment to thank some people who – in addition to Matt and Om – have been close supporters and collaborators on my Automattic journey to date: Phil and Tony for being great friends, partners, and board members from the start, Scott for his sage and level headed advice over the years, the entire team at Automattic for being amazingly talented, passionate, and committed, and most importantly Diane, who has been with me at every step, including a crucial moment in 2001 when I had to shut down a startup (Uplister), the entire economy was tanking, our third child had just been born, and I seriously considered taking a “real” job with a big, safe company. Without hesitation, Diane encouraged me to join another startup (Oddpost) instead. Oddpost ended up being a fantastic experience that led to a successful sale to Yahoo, which led to an article in Business 2.0 by Om, which led to WordPress.
Update: Really nice posts about this announcement by Om and Tony.